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What happened?

According to the New York Magazine story, Morgan Gargiulo, an aspiring actor, created a fake lease, moved into a mansion and didn’t face any legal consequences for his actions.

Gargiulo threw wild parties five nights a week. He charged between $500 to $1,500 for entry to these dos with rave lights, a Warhol-style print, and a disco ball. He put out Moroccan-inspired poufs and rugs downstairs to give the appearance of a lounge.

Gargiulo was living there with his fiancée and girlfriend, as well as other friends. He even started renting out bedrooms for $150 to $300 a night. But people who booked the rooms showed up to find nothing available in the four-bedroom, six-bathroom mansion. At one point, Gargiulo even let people stay there in exchange for cleaning the house.

Peeved by the late-night revelry, the neighbors confronted Gargiulo, who politely informed them he had a lease. They called the police, got a private investigator to wage a “maximum pressure” campaign and went to the press. Yet nothing happened.

The squatters eventually got sued for eviction in January this year. After it became clear the judge was not going to side with them, they made an agreement with the current owner to leave in February.

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How did this happen?

The absence of an owner willing and incentivized to initiate an eviction appears to have allowed Gargiulo and his housemates to enjoy a long stay.

The mansion was seized by the court amid a legal battle over its ownership between multiple parties. Its former owner had been indicted in a medical fraud scam, and a judge issued an order to sell the house to pay restitution to victims of the fraud scheme. This is when Gargiulo found it and did a tour. It's unclear how he moved in.

When a real estate agent with the listing was locked out, he called the cops on the squatters and was told there was nothing they could do. Gargiulo claimed he had a lease — it was a civil matter.

An unnamed movie producer from the neighborhood also called the cops, but Gargiulio showed them a piece of paper with no address, no amount, and no term of agreement. It just had two boxes on it: one with his own name and another, labeled “landlord in possession,” with the name Giovanni Arcore.

While the neighborhood text group chat was blowing up over the news about Gargiulo’s antics, residents heard that someone from the defense attorney’s office had been informed about the squatter situation and said, “Squatters have rights.”While the neighborhood text group chat was blowing up over the news about Gargiulo’s antics, residents heard that someone from the defense attorney’s office had been informed about the squatter situation and said, “Squatters have rights.”

“Welcome to California,” one neighbor wrote in the group chat. “Thanks Liberals.”

According to the New York Magazine story, "The efforts to convince the court in charge of the mansion that the squatters presented a safety threat were being ignored for reasons the neighbors couldn’t fathom. They had no idea why, if 1316 was the property of the state, California couldn’t just evict their tormentors."

Though the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department says that squatting is illegal in California, there are “adverse possession” laws that mean that a squatter can obtain rights in the state. If a squatter has lived in a property for five years without being evicted, they have the right to remain there, according to the American Apartment Owners Association (AAOA).

But Gargiulo had not been there for that long.

In December, the judge returned the mansion to the most recent owner, Adel Yamout. Yamout filed an unlawful-detainer lawsuit the following month.

Crime and Cali

The neighbors who spoke to the magazine were incensed by the disturbance caused by their squatting neighbors, but they also expressed their frustration with crime.

“We chose to leave the state of California for many reasons,” Fran Solomon told New York Magazine. “One of them was the crime rate.” Fran and her husband, Rick, live in Florida and rent out their Beverly Grove Place home.

More than one neighbor believed the L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón was letting crime run rampant.

Californians leaving for Florida or Texas isn’t uncommon — though it's usually attributed to tax-saving purposes rather than crime. This story reveals that crime, or at least the perception of crime, may be driving the wealthy out of the Golden State.

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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex

Reporter

Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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